All men and women in a swimming pool were created equal. No one looks pretty under the water. Except for Mark Foster. And there’s a pretty vicious element in everyone which swimming lengths seems to bring out. I’m not talking about the general section of the pool, where people are free to play and dive and natter, but the Serious Swimmers Section. The one which is roped off, to enable people who want to do laps, to do so. The one with the little sign saying ‘Please swim clockwise’. I’ll give you hint: if you’re one of the people who can’t even drive round the car park the right way in spite of the large sign and arrow there, this section is not for you.
It’s no joke to be in there folks. There are rules. Rules which become apparent only over time, and are unspoken. The first rule of the Serious Swimmers Section is to not talk about the Serious Swimmers Section.
As I’ve ploughed up and down, down and up, over the previous weeks, I’ve done a lot of thinking. Particularly in the ‘dead zone’ of lengths 20 through 40, where you start to wonder why you bothered getting in the pool in the first place as it’s so boring. And then you remember it enables you to eat cake without guilt, so you press on.
Clearly, some folk need a little help. So free, gratis and with pure pleasure, I present to you my Guide to Pool Etiquette:
- Baggy budgie smugglers smuggle no budgie, my friend. That bird is flying free. Please cage it. People, actual people with eyes, have to swim behind you, and no matter how hard they may try not to look, it will put them off their stroke.
- Do NOT cut corners. If you’re going to go in the section for swimming lengths, swim them – it’s not your own personal pool to use diagonally. By the fifth time you’ve done this someone will lose their patience and plough into you, and the lifeguard will look the other way.
- Standing at the end of the pool, taking up space whilst having a good gossip, and then doing a lazy lap or two before announcing that the swim has done you so much good you can feel you’re loosing weight and getting out is ridiculous. It’s not osmosis, people – you have to exercise in the water. In fact, standing at the end should be banned.
- If I’m lapping you, persistently, it’s because I’m faster than you, dude. Yes, I know it hurts your ego to be slower than me, but budge over. Swimming up the middle is rude, like driving in the middle lane of the motorway at 50 miles an hour. It’s also dangerous, because sooner or later someone will meet you head on, and the chances are it’ll be a member of Swim Squad. Those bad boys and girls take no prisoners.
- Conversely, if someone graciously nods their head and allows you to go in front of them – because they know you are faster – say thank you. This doesn’t need to be verbal, because no Serious Swimmer would talk to another Serious Swimmer. It’s a bit like being on the Tube with a load of fellow commuters. We grunt, at a push. A smile and a head tilt before you kick off again is only polite.
- If you’re swimming with your head out like a meerkat, keeping your head out and your latest blow dry intact, you should be in the other section. People there don’t do front crawl so you’ll stop wasting so much energy on tutting at everyone going splashily past you.
- Serious Swimmers reserve the right to laugh underwater at any made up swimming strokes.
- TeamGB swimsuits are cool. Fact. But not if your stroke of choice is the backwards breaststroke combined with flippy arm movements. Embrace the spirit of the Games, my friend. Dare to face forward and build up a sweat. G’orn. You can do it.
- Shaving your legs in the communal shower is borderline acceptable, particularly if you do it behind a curtain. Stripping your costume off and shaving your bikini line passes the bounds of respectability and makes me want to heave.
Do you have a rule I should add to my Guide to Pool Etiquette? Because I reserve the right to add or amend or delete said rules at any time and for no particular reason. I don’t have to have a reason.